A blank white screen has been sitting before me for a little too long, and I am questioning why it has taken me so long to write on this topic. This isn’t because I haven’t made any mistakes – between you and me, I’ve made a lot.
Given my deep commitment to positive words, I really struggle with the word “mistake.” I would rather refer to mistakes as experiences or life lessons. (More on the power of positivity in Live What You Love)
Mistakes are aplenty in my life.
- I have made a fool of myself many times, but I forgive myself because I accept that I am human.
- I have said the wrong thing and put my foot in my mouth, but with no intention of being malicious. So I forgive myself and remind myself to learn from it.
- I have arrived late to things, been at the wrong place at the wrong time, dropped my son off at school on three separate occasions on “pupil free days.” He forgave me – and I forgave myself. Stuff happens in busy lives.
Life is not perfect. No one has the intention of making mistakes – by their very nature they are accidental. It is our ability to learn from them that makes the difference, but that is not new news.
My personal motto is “if it is meant to be, then it’s up to me.” What this means is that if mistakes happen, I take responsibility for my mishaps, misadventures and misunderstandings — I do not blame others. I have made business mistakes, which have cost me dearly (but the business continues to thrive). I have said the wrong thing in public (note story below) and whilst deeply embarrassing, I acknowledge I am but a human. Life goes on.
There is one disastrous thing that happened to me on stage during a keynote, and at the time my humiliation was physical. I felt hot, sick, and deeply ashamed.
I was speaking to a large group at a conference in Queensland. I often start my presentation from the back of the room, so I can walk through the participants and get to ‘know them’ on the way to the stage. The room is often dark and the stage bright. My eyesight is not the best – as was the case at this event.
As I started speaking from the back of this big room I had this sudden worry that no one had ever heard of RedBalloon, so I asked the question “Has anyone not heard of RedBalloon?” No hands went up. I then asked “Has anyone heard of RedBalloon?” and no hands went up. I thought to myself, “Oh my, I am in for a ride here.”
At that moment a person with grey curly hair suddenly appeared in front of me, I thought I would be funny and act as if I were a school teacher and said, “And where do you think you’re going, young man?”
The person responded loudly with indignation “Last time I looked I was a woman.”
I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. There were 500 people in the room (I was there to speak on Customer Happiness) and I had just made the biggest error – and insulted the customer to boot. There was complete silence in the room as I found my way to the stage – on with the show. It was a painful and humbling lesson.
I choose not to lament on the mistakes I make. As a positive person I have well and truly put them all behind me, and consider them part of what makes up my rich and interesting life.
Perhaps my next big disaster of a mistake will be tomorrow, but rest assured by the day after it will be relegated to my history.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn in April 2015